Food to help support your mental health

Food to help support your mental health

DISCLAIMER: I just thought I’d post this little disclaimer in case it wasn’t obvious. This isn’t an alternative option to seeking help, stopping your medication or treatment plan. Instead, adding these foods to your diet should be seen as a complimentary practice. Always check with your medical practitioner before you’re going to change your diet as certain foods can influence the metabolism of some medication.

There’s been quite a bit of research over the last few years on whether or not diet can assist in improving mental health, especially depression. Research has shown that the Mediterranean Diet can have potentially have a positive impact on mental health. You’re incorporating healthier food options into your diet while eating less or eliminating the more unhealthy ones. So what food should you include in your diet to help assist your mental health?

Colourful fruits and veg
As they say, ‘eat the rainbow’. Increasing your vegetable and fruit intake and making sure they come in a variety of colours will not only make sure you’re getting in plenty of gut loving fibre, but also anti-oxidants and a wide range of nutrients and minerals. Fruit and vegetables also consist of complex carbohydrates, which one of the most important energy sources for your brain. It also stabilises your body’s blood sugar reducing the risk of the 3pm sugar craving.

Wholegrains and fibre rich food
Dietary fibre plays an important role in the human body. Not only does it feed our healthy gut bugs and promote a healthy digestive system, soluble fibre has also been proven to help reduce cholesterol. Wholegrains also release a type of amino acid which triggers your body to produce serotonin which can help with sleep and mood improvement. So what foods should you include? Think leafy green veg like kale, legumes, brown rice and quinoa.

Maintaining healthy gut bacteria
Recent studies have shown a link between gut health and mental health. This is why it’s so important to make sure the food we eat will help our guts maintain healthy gut bacteria. Too many sugary processed foods starve the healthy gut bacteria and instead feed the unhealthy ones which can lead to an imbalance. Symptoms can include bloating, stomach cramps and feeling sluggish, but it can also affect our mental health. Eating colourful fruit and veg, wholegrains and fibre rich foods are a great way to encourage healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics is a great way to promote a healthy gut. You can include fermented foods rich in probiotics such as kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt. If you opt for yogurt, make sure it is the correct type, as lots of yogurts these days

Things to eat less of:
Alcohol can have a negative effect on our sleep. You might think it’s making you sleepy and it’ll help you fall asleep, but not only does it affect our mental health (it’s a central nervous system depressant), it also interferes with our biological clocks (circadian rhythm) which can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Eating too many sugary treats aren’t only bad for our healthy gut bacteria, it can also trigger a chemical imbalance in the brain which can cause depression. Keep the added sugar to the odd treat.

Saturated fats, while delicious, can be bad for brain function. Studies have also shown people who have diets high in saturated fats (think processed foods and take aways) are more likely to suffer from depression. While the odd take away won’t be the end of the world, limiting saturated fats in our diets can be beneficial for our physical as well as our mental health.

Diet can be an important tool to assist us in improving our mental health.

Delicious and easy to make Rajma

It’s cold. It’s rainy. It’s the perfect time for comfort food that warms you up. Enter my super easy super quick Rajma.

Ingredients:
Cooked brown basmati rice (or which ever rice you prefer)
1 Brown onion
2 Cloves of garlic minced
1 Can of diced tomatoes
2 Cans of red kidney beans, washed and drained
1 to 2 Heaped teaspoons of tomato paste (to your taste)
1 And a half teaspoon of Rajma spice mix (you can make your own or buy premixed spices at your local Indian grocery shop)
Handful of coriander leaves if you like the taste
Dash of olive oil

For additional heat:
4 Green chillies chopped
1 Tablespoon red chili powder

Cooking:
Cook your preferred rice to your method.
In a medium pot, add your olive oil, garlic, onion and chillies (if you opted for them) and cook until the onions are light brown.
Add in your Rajma spice, red chili powder if you opted for it, tinned tomatoes and cook for a few minutes stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Add your tomato paste and mix it in thoroughly.
Now add your red kidney beans and stir it into the mix. If the mix is a little dry you can add some water. It all depends on how much juice is in your tinned tomatoes. Add water to make sure the beans are just covered by the mix.
Cook on medium to low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add a little bit more water if the mix starts to get too dry.
Remove from heat and let it sit for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Add your coriander leaves to your pot and then serve with your rice.

The great thing about recipes is that you can adjust and experiment to suit your own tastes. I was inspired by a recipe I saw in my Bollywood Cookbook a friend gave me for my birthday one year (yes, I love Bollywood and delicious curries, so this is the best of both worlds!) The original is from Bollywood actress Preity Zinta but would normally take me a few hours to make. I wanted something quick, easy and adjustable based on whether I had guests who didn’t like their food too hot. This is what I came up with. Let me know how you like it and how you tweak it to make it your own.

Decadent Chocolate Brownie Bites

I am a total chocoholic, but I’m also a bit of a chocolate snob. It needs to be delicious and rich. Often though, the chocolates we buy in the supermarket is filled with ingredients not so good for us. Enter my Decadent Chocolate Brownie Bites.

I was trying to find something that was healthier than your average chocolate bar, but consisted out of whole foods and would hit the spot when I crave chocolate.

The great thing about these bites are that I find I only need to eat one tiny square and my craving is gone. Because they’re made out of whole foods, they’re also very filling.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Cashew
1 Cup Almonds
1 Cup Cocoa Powder (this is what makes it so chocolaty)
1 Cup Dates
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
Water to be added to your preferred consistency.

I blitz up my almonds, cashews and dates in my food processor.
Next I add the cup of cocoa powder and vanilla essence and blitz it all together. It should be a loose, semi powdery consistency.
Now I slowly add a little bit of filtered water at a time while it’s blitzing until it all starts to stick together. You don’t want to make the “batter” too runny, it needs to be sticky.

Line a dish or rectangular pan with baking paper and spread out the mixture. I like to spread it to about 1.5cm thickness.
Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or so.
It should have hardened a bit and will be easy to take out of the container.

Remove the baking paper and cut into small, square bites (I like mine to be about 3cm). You can make them bigger if you like, but remember they’re meant to be a treat.

Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge and they should keep for about 2 weeks (they never last that long though, we eat them way before then).

If you make these, let me know how they turned out for you. If you tweak them let me know what you added. I sometimes add some chopped up pecans or walnuts and stir them in just before I spread the mixture out into the pan. Enjoy!